GLENVIEW, Ill. – Brendan Valdes wasn’t afraid to peek at the leaderboard throughout the final 36 holes of stroke-play qualifying at the 121st Western Amateur.
More specifically, the 36-hole leader from Orlando, Florida, was only looking at his score, which occupied the top spot the entire day at North Shore Country Club in Glenview, Illinois.
“I was leading by a few coming into today, and all I was really focused on was my score and trying to get it to 20-under,” Valdes, an Auburn junior, said. “I unfortunately didn’t reach my goal, but I’ll take the result, of course.”
That result was the Cameron Eddy Trophy and Western Amateur medalist honors for Valdes. As the championship turns to match play Friday, he’ll play as the top seed in the 16-player bracket.
Entering Thursday at 10-under, Valdes carded rounds of 68-69 to maintain his spot atop the leaderboard with a four-day total of 15-under 269. He finished two strokes clear of Drew Goodman, of Norman, Oklahoma, who was alone in second at 13-under. Tied for third at 12-under were recent U.S. Walker Cup team selection Nick Dunlap, of Huntsville, Alabama; Gustav Frimodt, of Denmark; and Matthew McClean, of Northern Ireland.
For the full leaderboard, click here.
Valdes joins the likes of Tom Watson, Ben Crenshaw, Curtis Strange, Mark O’Meara, Tom Kite, Chick Evans and Bobby Jones as a Western Amateur medalist.
But Valdes has a deeper connection to North Shore’s 2011 Western Amateur medalist – 2012 Western Amateur champion and Valdes’ assistant coach at Auburn, Chris Williams.
“It feels amazing to have my name etched next to some of the best players ever and being able to share that with my coach,” Valdes said. “Coach Williams got beat by Patrick Cantlay that year though, so I’ve got to keep going. This isn’t a stroke play tournament, so I need to turn my focus to match play.”
Valdes’ first opponent Friday will be his Auburn teammate, Carson Bacha, of York, Pennsylvania, who survived a 7-for-3 playoff to make the Sweet 16. Also advancing through the playoff were 2021 champion Michael Thorbjornsen, of Wellesley, Massachusetts; Cole Sherwood, of Austin, Texas; and Stewart Hagestad, of Newport Beach, California.
Friday’s match play competition will be streamed live for free on thewesternamateur.com and Peacock (subscription required) beginning with the conclusion of the Sweet 16 matches airing from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. CT. Coverage will resume from 3-6 p.m. CT for the finish of the quarterfinal matches.
The Sweet 16 features an accomplished group, including two past U.S. Mid-Amateur Champions (McClean and Hagestad) and four past U.S. Junior champions (Thorbjornsen, Preston Summerhays, Wenyi Ding and Dunlap).
For Summerhays, it’s not the first time his family name has appeared on a Sweet 16 bracket.
Preston’s father, Boyd, reached the quarterfinals in 2001 at Point O’ Woods Golf and Country Club. Now a part of the 12th father-son Sweet 16 duo, Preston has eyes on topping his father’s performance.
“I’ve got a little extra to play for now trying to beat him,” Summerhays, an Arizona State junior said. “I’ve played in a ton of high-pressure matches, and I think that’ll help me feel more comfortable out there making a run.”
For the full match play bracket, click here.
First played at Glen View Club in 1899, the Western Amateur is the world’s third-oldest amateur championship, behind only the British Amateur (1885) and the U.S. Amateur (1895). It regularly attracts the top players from across the country and around the world, with past champions like Jack Nicklaus, Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods.
A grueling combination of stroke play and match play makes the Western Amateur one of the most demanding events in golf. The field of 156 players compete in 72 holes of stroke play over three days to determine the Sweet 16 for match play.
Attendance and parking at the Western Amateur are free.